Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Five best books on ciphers & codebreakers during WWII & after

Sinclair McKay is a features writer for The Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday. He is also the acclaimed author of the bestselling The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books on ciphers and codebreakers during World War II and after, including:
From Russia With Love
by Ian Fleming (1957)

James Bond himself is rarely troubled with the grueling, time-devouring and cerebral work of codebreaking. But his adventures—rather like the wartime experiences of his creator—bring him into the orbit of encryption technology. In the 1964 novel "You Only Live Twice," it is the Magic 44 code; in "From Russia With Love," perhaps Ian Fleming's finest, tautest thriller, it is a new Russian encryption machine, which the Soviets use to lure Bond into a deadly trap. As Bond muses to himself: "The Spektor! The machine that would allow them to decipher the Top Secret traffic of all. To have that . . . would be a priceless victory." As a naval intelligence officer, Fleming regularly visited Bletchley Park and was one of the very few to have full knowledge of the work done there. He was required to stay quiet after the war, so his creation 007 never got to witness a Colossus decoding machine in action. In real life, 007 himself would never have gained the necessary security clearance; the nature of Bletchley Park's work was kept from many MI6 agents. Apart from anything else, there was the danger that such knowledge could be betrayed by captured agents under torture.
Read about the other books on the list.

From Russia with Love also made John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in literature, ten of the best chess games in fiction, ten of the best punch-ups in fiction, and ten of the best breakfasts in literature, and a list of eleven presidents' favorite books. It is on Keith Jeffery's five best list of books on Britain's Secret Service and Samuel Muston's ten best list of spy novels.

--Marshal Zeringue